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  • Writer's pictureAmy Woolf

Mind The Gap

It is an exciting time in London. The Christmas lights are up across the city, holidays are approaching and Mariah Carey can be heard sharing her Christmas list on the radio. It is also when the majority of women are working for free.

Working for free.

Just let that sink in.

This is not about the extra hours put in above and beyond. It isn’t about the mental load that women take on, nor is it about the additional childcare women do.

The Gender Pay Gap means that full time working women across the UK are paid 7.9% less than men. The Fawcett Society have dedicated their time to changing this and each year campaign for Equal Pay Day to fall on the day that women’s earnings stop. Last Thursday 18th November, was that day, this year.

You might argue that 18th November is late in the year and we’ve done remarkably well to close the pay gap. I argue that it doesn’t matter when Equal Pay Day is, it shouldn’t be here at all.

In 2019 I was delighted to be featured in Authority Magazine where I outlined what we need to do to close the Gender Pay Gap. Sadly since then, we have gone backwards.

Coronavirus, lockdown and home schooling has had an adverse effect on gender equality. Case in point, Equal Pay Day 2020 fell on 20th November, we’ve lost 2 whole days in 1 year.

At the start of the pandemic around 40% of working women worked part time. This largely was due to the high costs of childcare in the UK (I won’t rant about that today) and when part time jobs fell by 70% in the first lockdown women suffered greatly.

In a two parent household, the lack of physical schools, childcare and other activities meant that the burden of care (often) fell to the person who earned less. That’s right, women.

“Who would have predicted that on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, British women would be back in the home, up to their ears in dishes, dinners and nappies, watching their careers evaporate as the pay gap widens?”- Linda Scott, How Coronavirus is Widening the UK Gender Pay Gap

We’ve been living with Covid-19 for almost two years. The long protracted home schooling bouts, the endless meals prepared for everyone, the countless hours comforting children who suffer their own mental health difficulties has taken a huge toll on parents.

During 2021 the numbers of women with caring responsibilities that The Woolf Partnership have spoken to, who do not want to pursue new roles has increased substantially. The reasons include:

  1. The juggle between work and home life the past two years has been hard. Contracting offers a much more attractive balance.

  2. They need and want to be around more for their families.

  3. Their current organisations have allowed them to work flexibly during lockdown and they feel they cannot risk losing that trust.

Along with not pursuing new roles, women have also led the way in The Great Resignation. The burn out is real. Of the women we have spoken to many claim to have been attempting to be full time parents and full time employees, which just doesn't work. They would rather not work at all, than work in a role they don't feel they can do well.

With the recruitment market more buoyant than it has been for years and talented candidates as sought after as a Golden Snitch, businesses should be doing everything they can to attract and retain strong people.

There is no simple answer to this, but what we DO know is that authenticity is key to attracting talent at the moment. People and especially women, are motivated to find an environment where they can be themselves and thrive.

The Fawcett Society explain that women find discussing historic salaries to be a huge barrier to their progression:

  • 61% women who have been asked about salary history say it damaged their confidence to negotiate for better pay.

  • 58% of women said it made them feel like their low past salary was coming back to haunt them.

  • Just a quarter (24%) of people feel that pay should be based on past salary, compared to 80% for their skill and responsibilities and 77% for the value of the work they do.

We advocate for candidates to be paid what they are worth, but we cannot do it alone. The only way we are to close the pay gap is by recognising talent and rewarding accordingly.

So please, work with your candidates and colleagues to ensure that everyone is paid well for the jobs they do. Let's look towards a time in the near future when we don't have to mark Equal Pay Day!

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